The 2023 UN Climate Change Conference, COP28, currently unfolding in Dubai, UAE, signifies a pivotal moment for global leaders to address climate injustice and refocus efforts on the most vulnerable communities worldwide. This conference, which encompasses the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 28) and the fifth meeting of the COP serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 5), holds particular significance in the wake of worsening heatwaves, droughts, and floods since COP27.
COP, or the Conference of the Parties, is a platform where governments worldwide converge to agree on policies aimed at combating climate change. This year’s event, from November 30 to December 12, gathers over 70,000 participants, including heads of state, government officials, industry leaders, academics, experts, and youth representatives.
Why COP28 Matters:
The reality is that climate change, an ever-present global crisis, does not impact all countries equally. As the devastating effects of climate change intensify, countries in Africa find themselves disproportionately affected. Rising temperatures, coupled with the consequences of conflict, have placed these nations at the forefront of climate crisis repercussions.
Remarkably, only 16 countries now constitute 60% of the global humanitarian need, with climate change exacerbating existing issues caused by conflict and extreme poverty. Despite contributing minimally to emissions, these countries are the least prepared for the impacts, facing more frequent and intense natural disasters that destroy livelihoods, intensify conflicts, and uproot people from their homes.
Addressing Climate Injustice
One of the key challenges of COP28 lies in addressing climate injustice and supporting countries where climate change contributes to natural disasters, food insecurity, displacement, and profound suffering. This issue gains even more urgency when considering the unequal effects on women and children.
For the Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles, this is more than a global concern – it’s deeply personal. Our Sisters live and work in different countries across Africa, and they witness firsthand the impact of climate change on the communities in which they serve. In Africa, women and girls are disproportionately affected by climate change. They are up to 14 times more likely to be killed by climate disasters than men. However, the repercussions extend beyond natural disasters and mortality rates. The devastating consequences of climate change on the continent of Africa leads to displacement, food insecurity and devastating poverty, this in turn leads to increases in gender-based violence and child marriage.
Women and girls in these regions often depend on agriculture and have fewer opportunities to adapt when faced with the effects of climate change. This inequity calls for focused attention and action from world leaders.
We recently collaborated with the Society of African Missions (SMA) on a short podcast series, featuring interviews with some or our Sisters and SMA brothers and priests who share their lived experiences of the effects of climate change in the communities where they live and work.
In this insightful podcast series, the interconnectedness of climate change – with migration, child brides, conflict, and other societal challenges – is explored. The narratives provide a deeper understanding of the nuanced, often unseen, consequences that may not be apparent to those in the West, and that are not always attributed directly to climate change.
Call for Inclusive Climate Action
As the world is tuned in to Dubai for COP28, it is imperative that the discussions and policies formulated address the disparate impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations, particularly women and children in Africa.
Through our advocacy work, podcast series and our various collaborations, we continue to emphasise the need for greater accountability and restorative action to be taken by western governments.
COP28 is more than a conference; it is a pivotal moment to begin to rectify the imbalances and injustices perpetuated by climate change. By placing vulnerable communities at the forefront of discussions, global leaders have the opportunity to create a sustainable and inclusive path towards combating the climate crisis.